David Maslanka (1943-2017) was an American composer whose cerebral music ranges from chamber music miniatures to large, epic symphonies. Born in New Bedford, MA, Maslanka studied at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music(including a year at the Salzburg Mozarteum) and with H. Owen Reed at Michigan State University. He spent his early career teaching at several institutions before dedicating himself solely to composition in 1990. He won several awards for his music, and he worked solely on commission for many years. His compositions for wind band won him particular acclaim, including more than a dozen concertos, seven symphonies (plus two more for orchestra), and several concert pieces, including A Child’s Garden of Dreams. His Symphony no. 10 remained unfinished at his death.
Give Us This Day was written in 2006 on a commission from a consortium of high school and college bands led by Eric Weirather at Rancho Bueno Vista High School in Oceanside, California. Maslanka provides the following program note in the score:
The words “Give us this day” are, of course, from the Lord’s Prayer, but the inspiration for this music is Buddhist. I have recently read a book by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced “Tick Nat Hahn”) entitled For a Future to be Possible. His premise is that a future for the planet is only possible if individuals become deeply mindful of themselves, deeply connected to who they really are. While this is not a new idea, and something that is an ongoing struggle for everyone, in my estimation it is the issue for world peace. For me, writing music, and working with people to perform music, are two of those points of deep mindfulness.
Music makes the connection to reality, and by reality I mean a true awakeness and awareness. Give Us This Day gives us this very moment of awakeness and awareness so that we can build a future in the face of a most dangerous and difficult time.
I chose the subtitle, “Short Symphony for Wind Ensemble,” because the music is not programmatic in nature. It has a full-blown symphonic character, even though there are only two movements. The music of the slower first movement is deeply searching, while that of the highly energized second movement is at times both joyful and sternly sober. The piece ends with a modal setting of the choral melody “Vater Unser in Himmelreich” (Our Father in Heaven) – No. 110 from the 371 four-part chorales by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Here is a performance by the Trade Winds, led by Daniel Schmidt:
The Bach he mentions comes from BWV 737:
Much more is available about Give Us This Day at Maslanka’s excellent website, this wonderful journal by Sam Ormson, J.W. Pepper (who rates it too high – I’m sticking by my grade 5 designation), Lauren Wright’s dissertation, GIA Publications, Kurrent Music, and this interview at The Band Post.